Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Sharing the Joy

by Sandy Cody

I once had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Hamilton (author of Book of Ruth and  A Map of the World, to name just a couple of her books). I asked her which part of writing she most enjoys. Here's her answer:

 HAMILTON:  I love it when, with some kind of magical harmonic convergence, everything starts to hum along, and you hardly know you yourself are present at work. (This is not a usual occurrence). It’s as if you’ve spun gold from straw; you look up and think, How did that happen? Also, I enjoy reading my work out loud to myself when it’s going well, when I can take pleasure in my own sentences and story.”

 I think one of the reasons Ms. Hamilton’s answer resonated so strongly with me was the contrast with some (most?) of the things I say when I talk about writing. I speak too often about the difficulty of writing and too seldom about the joy. I share those moments of inadequacy when the words won’t come and fail to mention the rush of joy when they do come, those all-too-rare moments when I feel that I've “spun gold from straw” or the pleasure of reading aloud a description or a bit of dialogue that got it right.

 Since I know a fair number of other writers, I know this is common. Writers complain a lot … about the loneliness of writing (then turn around and say we can’t write because no one will leave us alone); about the discipline required (as if anything worth doing doesn’t require discipline); about the lack of time to write (which might be less of a problem if we’d stop complaining and just write); about the demanding people in our lives (what would we write about if we didn’t have them?).

Why do we do this? I’m not sure. I think it’s at least in part because we’re obsessed with writing and don’t know how else to talk about it–possibly due to a misplaced sense of modesty. We’ve been taught that it’s not nice to brag. Fair enough. But is it any nicer to subject those around us to a litany of imagined woe when, in fact, we’re doing what we love? Granted, realization of the pain of writing is a necessary part of birthing a novel, but maybe we need to lighten up and broadcast the pleasures of our chosen vocation. Let’s share the joy.

So ... here I am ... saying it out loud. I am a writer and that is a privilege and a joy. I am living my dream.


  1. Hi Sandy--
    You are right. I, too, don't often acknowledge the joys of writing. How exhilarating to say the words, "I am a writer and I am living my dream." Nice post.

  2. Very true! I think maybe we don't want to jinx it, since the gift seems so fragile and that in-the-zone feeling such a wonderful and fleeting thing.

    1. Right, Karen. It is fragile and fleeting. Thanks for adding your two cents.

  3. Sometimes when a scene or a passage or whatever really comes together, I ask my husband to listen and tell me if it works. He's quite useless as a critique partner because he always says yes, but he gives me an audience when I just want the pleasure of reading something aloud. (Don't tell him.)

    1. I hear you, LD. Sometimes we just need an audience. Thanks for stopping by. My husband isn't a great critique partner either - probably a good thing.